sapling111276

Finishing oak

Recommended Posts

Hello all. Got a question regarding an oak bench I was going to build, that I am researching a little further because I would like to try to nail it down on the first attempt (pun intended). Anyway, I had asked questions in the past and the community told me that ammonia tenting was probably done to achieve the dark rich color of the wood. I have yet to experiment with this technique, but this isnt the last step, right?! I mean, you are just chemically staining the wood to a darker color. The grain would be left open and the finish would be hard and cold. I would bet people like to do a few coats of poly or arm-r-seal or something like that to protect the piece. I once read a book from Nick Offerman and he said he doesnt like to use stains or paints on wood. I dont need clarification on his actual words. I am just thinking that if you did the ammonia tenting and then followed that with a coat of oil and beeswax or similar, the wood will continue to sweat the oils out as you sit in the bench, which could ruin a lot of clothes and really anger my wife. 

  Bare with me as I am still new to woodworking and what I learn is generally from watching YouTube, asking questions and trial and error. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are correct ammonia fuming is just to darken the wood it is not a protection finish. The piece below was fumed then hit with a coat of garnet shellac before having a film finish applied for protection, in this case waterlox

CT-137.jpg.a89d2799f52d6d820795502fa24ea05f.jpg

Here are samples of what fuming did to this white oak. The bottom is fuming at 0, 2, 4, & 6 hour intervals under the tent. The middle is fuming with one coat of garnet shellac and the top is fuming, 1 coat garnet shellac, and 3 coats of Waterlox

255988212_SideTable94.jpg.8c82831c8a137c6a86385ca3560c7080.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, sapling111276 said:

Hello all. Got a question regarding an oak bench I was going to build, that I am researching a little further because I would like to try to nail it down on the first attempt (pun intended). Anyway, I had asked questions in the past and the community told me that ammonia tenting was probably done to achieve the dark rich color of the wood. I have yet to experiment with this technique, but this isnt the last step, right?! I mean, you are just chemically staining the wood to a darker color. The grain would be left open and the finish would be hard and cold. I would bet people like to do a few coats of poly or arm-r-seal or something like that to protect the piece. I once read a book from Nick Offerman and he said he doesnt like to use stains or paints on wood. I dont need clarification on his actual words. I am just thinking that if you did the ammonia tenting and then followed that with a coat of oil and beeswax or similar, the wood will continue to sweat the oils out as you sit in the bench, which could ruin a lot of clothes and really anger my wife. 

  Bare with me as I am still new to woodworking and what I learn is generally from watching YouTube, asking questions and trial and error. 

You need to be aware that fuming is done mostly on White Oak... I've never seen it done on Red Oak.  Probably because Red Oak has way more open pores and It wouldn't fume evenly. That's just a guess.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, sapling111276 said:

ammonia tenting was probably done to achieve the dark rich color of the wood

and if i remember right it's dangerous unless done correctly, fumes are not good for your health so be careful

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, sapling111276 said:

Richard, that is an incredible piece you have there. Thanks for the post. That helps quite a bit with what I need to do next. Thank you. 

Uh, what piece?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, treeslayer said:

and if i remember right it's dangerous unless done correctly, fumes are not good for your health so be careful

Excellent point treeslayer. I have a pretty sizable barn at the back of my 1 acre property that is not very... air tight. That, coupled with the fact that I wouldn't enter the vacinety without proper protection. I work in the chemical industry so I am familiar with the dangers of several, very dangerous chemicals, such as; formaldehyde, phenol and yes, even ammonia. Thank you for your words of warning, they will not be taken lightly. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are a multitude of chemical treatments that can be used to alter / enhance / really screw up the color of wood. The combination of ammonia fumes and white oak is well known enough to be reasonably predictable. But some others are very likely to produce a good deal of 'uniqueness'.

As @wdwerker is prone to say, test on scraps first. But commercial stains or dyes are likely to produce the color you expect, more so than the chemical methods.

But then, some of us enjoy surprises.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, K Cooper said:

Disclosure. None of this applies to California woodworkers. 

This comment is really getting old.

I really don't know why everyone thinks woodworking is so different here in California.  I can do and buy pretty much anything the rest of you can, even ammonia.  The only thing different is we have a label that states the possible carcinogenic effects of a product.  You read it and move on how ever you want.  Some counties have stronger regulations but it's not the whole state.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, treeslayer said:

and if i remember right it's dangerous unless done correctly, fumes are not good for your health so be careful

This is true if you use industrial ammonia I do my pieces with Ace Hardware commercial ammonia and that is much less a concern. I use about 3/4” deep in a 3x3 dish under a plastic tent you can’t even smell it in the shop until you lift the tent off. The nice thing is you can poor the ammonia back in the bottle and reuse it. Regarding use it seems white oak is typically used for fuming but if you google it you will find pics of other woods that have been fumed.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry Chet but we actually see more labels here that address  Cal. exclusions and codes than we see products made in China. That may change in the future. Please don’t take this as a slam. No offense meant. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Chet said:

I really don't know why everyone thinks woodworking is so different here in California

You have easier access to claro walnut... and other possibly cool species i probably just haven't seen yet.

Lower humidity means less tool rust.

Yeah not a whole lot different but those are the 2 things i can think of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now